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Legislators receive an hour briefing on the Access to Counsel in Evictions law from A2JC ED.

A briefing on the work of the Access to Counsel in Evictions (ACE) Task Force was requested by the House Judiciary Committee chair, Del. Luke Clippinger. Reena Shah, who is the Executive Director of A2JC and serves as the Chair of the Access to Counsel in Evictions Task Force, presented to the full Committee on the progress of implementation and necessary reforms related to the ACE law at a briefing that took place on February 1, 2023.

The ACE Task Force is a legislatively-mandated body which monitors implementation of the ACE law and makes recommendations to ensure success of the law through an annual report. Shah was appointed by former Attorney General, Brain Frosh, as the chair of the Task Force in the Spring of 2022.Shah invited colleagues from the Maryland Legal Services Corporation and the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland to join in the briefing, which covered a gamut of issues related to ACE, including the key reasons for the law; a tenant testimonial; the necessity of an attorney to help tenants navigate complex rent cases; the status of implementation of the law; and the key findings and recommendations from the Task Force’s 2023 report.

At the briefing, Shah emphasized the priority Task Force recommendations, namely the importance of continuous funding for the ACE law; uniformity in state courts regarding application of the ACE law; and a robust outreach strategy that included a centralized number for all information and services related to ACE.

Evictions are a complicated legal process for non-attorneys to navigate on their own. As emergency rental assistance declines, the ACE law is poised to serve as the strongest bulwark against rising evictions. Other jurisdictions that have implemented a right to counsel in evictions, like Cleveland, for example, have seen dramatic results, including a 93% decline in evictions or forced moves. For that reason, Maryland Access to Justice Commission (A2JC), along with a number of other community groups, civil legal aid organizations, funders and representatives from the state bar and judiciary, have advocated hard for the passage of the statewideAccess to Counsel in Evictions (ACE) law. This legislative session, advocates are continuing the fight by urging lawmakers to provide continuous funding for the ACE law to ensure full implementation.

View the recording of the briefing here.